Orland council receives update on Internet upgrade
Jan 08, 2013 (Orland Press Register - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Students in Glenn County schools should have faster Internet access in three to six months thanks to the Glenn County Office of Education.
Superintendent of Schools Tracey Quarne and Technology Director Roberto Herniman updated the Orland City Council on this project Monday night.
As educators, Quarne said staff faced a dilemma since the Academic Performance Index test will have to be taken over the Internet by the 2014-15 school year.
"It takes a pretty big pipe to move this test to students and the test to the agency," Quarne said.
But many of the county's rural schools do not have that capability right now, he said, which is why the Glenn County Board of Education approved spending about $400,000 in district reserves to put up Internet signal towers at the GCOE office in Willows and one in Orland.
These towers will be used to connect Plaza, Lake, Capay, Princeton and Willowglen schools to high-speed Internet along with Princeton and other Glenn County Office of Education programs, officials said, through wireless Internet.
Orland Unified School District already has its own high-speed access, Quarne said, but the smaller schools are not part of its network.
Herniman said by federal standards, communities with 6 or less megabits of Internet access are underserved. The rural Glenn County schools currently have 1.5 megabits, he said, which was fantastic 10 years ago but is not up to today's standards.
Relying on Internet providers like Comcast, AT&T and Frontier for expanded service is difficult, Herniman said, since they will not invest unless there is a profit.
Schools also cannot afford to run Internet cable privately since the cost is prohibitive, he said.
So the point-to-point, wireless link is what Glenn County Office of Education is using.
The tower in Orland will connect all of the schools in Northern Glenn County while the one at the Willows office will connect those in south county area.
For Elk Creek, the office hopes to bounce signals off the county-owned Needham Tower, Herniman said.
Point-to-point wireless Internet provides 100 megabits to users, he said.
Herniman also talked about Kings County putting up two towers for Internet access to not only its schools and staff but the students as well.
Students in that county are given iPads instead of textbooks in this new digital age, Herniman said, as encyclopedias and textbooks are on their way out.
Quarne said 70 percent of students learn visually but schools still insist on using lectures and chalk to teach everyone.
But he sees that changing as more and more turn to the Internet for distance learning programs.
Mayor Charles Gee asked how they would control Internet content to the students.
It goes through a content filter, Herniman said, designed to keep unsuitable material out of student view.
Down the road quasi-educational facilities like Orland's Free Library also might be served by the towers, Quarne said.
Hamilton City also can be served by the towers, the superintendent said.
"I applaud you for doing this," Councilman Bruce Roundy said.
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